Staff Sgt. Todd Cram is months away from returning to civilian life after spending the past ten years as a Soldier. While he will no longer be active duty, he is a Soldier for life, and hopes to stay in the Army family by putting his knowledge and skills with Army aircraft to good use as a Logistics Assistance Representative, or LAR as they are known around the hangars.
“I’m already part of the Apache (helicopter) community, with an understanding of aircraft maintenance and quality control,” said Cram, “so becoming a LAR made the most sense for using my expertise once I left the Army.”
LARs play a crucial role assisting units in maintaining readiness. Aviation and Missile Command LARs are aviation maintenance subject matter experts who provide oversight, assistance and logistical support to Soldiers, both on base and while deployed.
A pilot AMCOM LAR apprentice program in Fort Drum, New York, caught the attention of Pat Lindy, the 402nd Army Field Support Battalion-Hawaii’s lead system technical representative.
“I was talking to Les Sermons up at Fort Drum and he explained a pilot program, and I thought it would be great if we could set up something like this here,” said Lindy. “I see it as a way to get some young talent added to the team.”
Lindy noted that an ideal candidate would have extensive experience working on Army aircraft.
Though Cram worked closely with Dan Phillips, the 402nd’s aviation LAR, he did not fully understand the job.
“I called up Dan [Phillips] and asked, ‘What exactly does a LAR do logistically?’” said Cram, who already had a basic concept of the maintenance aspects of a LAR’s job.
Cram has embarked on a 95-day apprenticeship to learn every detail needed to be an ideal applicant for an aviation LAR position.
While internships for Soldiers preparing to leave the Army are quite common under the Career Skills Program, which allows Soldiers to learn new skills through internships with civilian organizations up to six months prior to transitioning out of the Army, there was not an option that suited Cram’s desires. “I pretty much created my own internship through CSP,” said Cram.
“This is the first time the 402nd has had an apprenticeship of this nature,” said Lindy.
The program Cram is participating in will teach him every skill necessary for being a successful aviation LAR. Cram will work alongside Phillips and report to Lindy as if he is part of the 402nd LAR shop, civilian clothes and all, and will focus on a new topic each week for 13 weeks.
“What this is going to do for him is let him see everything that a LAR does, from cradle to grave, do everything a LAR does, from reporting to conducting Maintenance Engineering Calls,” said Phillips, who has almost 40 years of experience working with rotary wing airframes.
According to Phillips, this apprenticeship has been a seamless transition for Cram. In fact, on Cram’s second day, he was already advising his former unit on a repair.
“A contractor had an issue with door fitment, so I went back to the office, and while going through the (technical manual), I noticed it instructs you how to fix that exact issue. We went back to the hangars, showed them different ways to fix this issue, guiding them, giving them the ideas of how they can make the fix. Dan stepped back and was like ‘This is you man, that was all you,’” said Cram.
Cram’s opportunity to participate in this apprenticeship is due to the Army’s Soldier For Life initiative, created to prepare and assist separating and retiring Soldiers with tools and resources to help them thrive in civilian life. Under this program, Soldiers, like Cram, are connected with education, employment, and health and wellness opportunities. Through the initiative, transitioning Soldiers are set up to succeed in civilian life.
Lindy ultimately hopes to use apprenticeships such as these to train the next generation of aviation LARs.
“This program will enable us to screen applicants for potential and develop their skills. Having the chance to train and work alongside one of our LARs gives us a chance to accept new interns with roughly 60% of the experience we look for and develop them into a competitive applicant,” said Lindy.
Follow along Staff Sgt. Cram’s internship on the 402nd AFSB’s Facebook Page.